15 March, 2007

Cashiers and handling of pork products

I shop for pork at Spinneys and other grocery stores in the UAE with extensive pork sections. I presume that most of the cashiers and baggers are Asian Muslims. They do not refuse to touch the pork product packages. Likewise, I face no difficulties when I leave the airport after passing through the alcohol duty free.

Here's a story out of Minneapolis where Muslims cashiers are refusing to touch pork products:
In the latest example of religious beliefs creating tension in the workplace, some Muslims in the Twin Cities are adhering to a strict interpretation of the Qur'an that prohibits the handling of pork products. Instead of swiping the items themselves, they are asking non-Muslim employees or shoppers to do it for them.
...
The Twin Cities area has become a hotbed for such conflicts because of its burgeoning population of Somali immigrants, many of whom are orthodox Muslims. Last year, Somali cabdrivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport attracted national attention when some refused to carry passengers toting alcohol.

Dr. Shah Khan, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Minnesota in Fridley, said the Somali Muslim community is divided between those who believe it is wrong only to eat pork and more orthodox Muslims who believe the prohibition extends to selling, touching or handling the meat.
...
Retailers have accommodated other religious groups over the years. In the Twin Cities, these include those who don't want to sell lottery tickets or work on Saturdays, said Bernie Hesse, local organizer for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 789. Supermarkets in particular have been good about recognizing their employees' religious observances, he said. "If we ever get to the point of selling wine in grocery stores, I imagine some folks will be excused from doing that," Hesse said.

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for a person's religious practices if it doesn't impose an undue hardship. A customer's personal preferences is usually not a factor in deciding whether a religious practice is protected in the workplace, noted Khadija Athman, national civil rights manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington.
...
Some legal experts said cashiers who avoid pork in a checkout line are different from taxi drivers at the airport who refuse customers carrying alcohol. "I think in general we expect taxi drivers to pick up all fares," said Eric Janus, the vice dean of William Mitchell College of Law. "That's part of what it means to be a taxi driver."

A supermarket cashier, on the other hand, is not under the same legal obligation to serve all customers, though the store may be. As long as another cashier is available to serve the customer, there should be no problem, said Janus.

The cashiers' example holds a similar legal ground to pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control or morning-after pills, a practice that has led to differing legal opinions in some states as many legislatures decide to take on the issue.
My conjecture is that non-national Muslims in the UAE do not have them job protections on religious grounds that you would find for Muslims in the US. If you want keep your cashier's job at Spinneys you don't refuse to scan the pork products.

9 comments:

twisted.ae said...

Actually a Muslim should avoid handling Pork at all times. The issue here though is not simply about cashiers handling pork...but more of the double standards that we in the East consistently exhibit... as opposed to our more clued up and educated Muslim counterparts in the West.

samuraisam said...

twisted.ae: Are you sure handling plastic packaged pork is something to worry about?

Anonymous said...

Does it explicitly state in the Qu'ran that Muslims should not even handle pork? Or is it interpretation?

Anonymous said...

We could always say to the Muslims...'if you don't like it, leave' :)

Stained said...

I know consumption, handling, serving alcohol is prohibited in Islam...
In the same way consuming, handling pork would be prohibited....

Anonymous said...

I'm a vegetarian, but this is what I found about pork meat

http://www.geocities.com/porkfatal/

Fahad said...

I agree with stained, but on the other hand i would like to share my thoughts as well...as a muslim first of all i should nt be working for a place where they serve alcohol and sell pork, every one has the right to chose...but if i do work with choice thn i have no right to complain, people who complain while working are hypocrites ... i am not answering religiously but morally... and if i am forced to work in a place where they do sell pork due to be problems of unemployment and to support my family thn it basically i have no choice and God forgives people, just like when a muslim or any other human being is close to death cause of hunger they can eat porks, snakes, human remains even if they are not morally correct...all religons approve of it
...So Islam doesnt hold you by neck....and about people complaining about serving pork in supermarkets, if a company respects a religious belief good enough u can ask thm to get rules in place, if they dont then a muslim should quit the job, if a muslim is forced to work cause he doesnt have any other choice thn Allah is most Merciful And Forgiving

Fahad said...

And also i dont understand why is it a issue to respect other peoples religious beliefs.....everyone one should respect each others belief without people demanding it or fighting for it ..... it includes all

Seabee said...

I presume that most of the cashiers and baggers are Asian Muslims.

I'm not sure that's a correct assumption. They may well not be Muslim - there's mostly Indian and Filipino staff in the supermarkets I shop in, for example.

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